SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: Promotion glory to add to last-day home memories

editorial image
Share this article
Have your say

SOME relegation battles have reached a dramatic conclusion at Hillsborough but a need to win the final game of the season to seal promotion is a new one to me.

Maybe it is the thought of some calamitous finales that injects just a little caution into an assessment of the Owls’ prospects tomorrow.

A bumper crowd, 37,000, could not save them when they needed to beat Crystal Palace two years ago: they drew 2-2 and went down.

The 1990 side needed only a point against Forest but lost 3-0 and were relegated, in front of 29,000, as Luton pulled off a great escape by winning 3-2 at Derby and overtaking Wednesday on goal difference.

A 2-1 defeat by Manchester City, watched by 45,000, condemned the club to the old Second Division in 1970, in the final game of the season.

Owls fans have seen enough of these and other kinds of slips not to regard tomorow’s game against Wycombe as a simple formality.

But I’m not saying there is any case for pessimism.

That Palace side that sent the club down were a decent one who were involved in a last-day duel only because they had been docked 10 points for financial transgressions.

Wednesday also clinched safety by beating Norwich 4-1 on the last day in 2008, in front of 36,000 - they would have gone down if they had lost.

Looking at the most recent promotion feats, in 1980 they clinched it with one game to spare, so the final match, at home to Carlisle, was something of a celebration enjoyed by 32,000 though it was a goal-less draw.

Howard Wilkinson’s 1983-84 side were virtually up with six games to spare, though technically it was settled with Mel Sterland’s penalty in the fifth-from-last match, against Crystal Palace.

Once again, the pressure was off for the final home game - which attracted 37,000 and was a 0-0 draw with Manchester City.

Under Ron Atkinson, promotion to the top flight was clinched in the final home match with a 3-1 win against Bristol City - attendance 31,000. “A late, dodgy penalty at Oldham (champions) in the final game cost us the title,” recalls Big Ron.

That was the last time that the Owls achieved automatic promotion.

In 2005, there was nothing hanging on the final home game, because a place in the play-offs was assured after a win at Hull a week earlier.

But the drama on the final was outstanding, as a Wednesday following of 41,000 saw a 1-0 lead turned into 2-1 deficit, followed by extra time and a 4-2 victory for Paul Sturrock’s team against Hartlepool.

Now the scene is set for what is sure to be another gripping occasion tomorrow.

The Owls are at home, where their record this season is outstanding, and are up against a relegated side.

I would not insult Wycombe by suggesting they are going to be pushovers.

They could be inspired by the occasion and they will also be attempting to avenge their 2-1 defeat at Adams Park in October, when Jose Semedo and Ryan Lowe scored the goals.

But I think Wednesday will win, and win convincingly if they get into top gear.